CS Review: Amazon’s Tales from the Loop Is Full of Wonder & Heartache
Time has no real meaning in Nathaniel Halpern’s Tales from the Loop, the key that serves as the basis for the arc of the eight-episode first season. Time, as well as the theme of dreams regularly referenced in the show, seemingly holds no beginning or end but exists in a loop that is capable of overlapping. Submerged in family, friendship, fantastical mysteries, incredible performances (young Cole, played by Duncan Joiner, will rip your heart to shreds as he steals every scene he’s in), and gorgeous sets, Tales from the Loop is a visually impressive and intelligent science fiction series that taps into the relatable emotions and complexities that make us human.
The striking visual storytelling is unsurprising considering the source material the series was inspired by. Based on the acclaimed art of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, whose hauntingly beautiful work you can marvel at here, the anthology series explores the town of Mercer, Ohio, and the people who live above The Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe, making things possible that were previously relegated only to science fiction. Throughout each episode, tales are told that bare universal emotional experience while drawing on the intrigue of genre storytelling.
Tales from the Loop is an anthology on paper as the stories shift from one character and featured tale to the next, but a few of the characters remain a significant piece of the puzzle throughout, and the interconnectedness of these stories and the townspeople of Mercer establish a permanent tether between them, The Loop, and the overall story. We begin with a young girl, Loretta (Abby Ryder Fortson) becoming curious about the mysterious work her mother conducts beneath the ground at the facility known as The Loop. The facility, also known as the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics (MCEP), was founded by a man named Russ (Jonathan Pryce) to carry out unique research. What we find within the story, though, is that the research is not quite as significant as the connection to The Loop everyone in town has, one way or another.
Young Loretta’s journey sparks a string of tales interwoven with the same recurring characters, in addition to some new ones, and stories linking from one episode to the next — sometimes in even the smallest of ways. Among the awe of what’s possible in the town of Mercer, Ohio, from essentially seeing through time, robots capable of being human, humans capable of swapping bodies (and the struggle of identity and desire), to even discovering how short or long of a life you have left, there is a feeling of realness as existence is a mixture of both optimistic hope and tragic heartbreak as connections can ultimately be either strengthened or lost.
Tales from the Loop isn’t about happy endings, or really endings in general. There are moments in the series that are upsetting in viscerally wondrous ways and will leave you feeling raw in an almost cathartic release. By the end of the series, you realize that The Loop itself was never meant to be solved or completely understood; the impact on the townspeople — on humanity itself — its existence has is only meant to drive our exploration of our relationships with one another and most importantly, our relationship with ourselves.
The series is not without its faults. There are brief moments in certain episodes where the pacing of the story might lose you, but you’ll be immediately pulled back in by unexpected moments, subtle, stunning twists, heartwrenching realizations, and quiet, effective pieces of dialogue that will make you gasp. Rebecca Hall and Duncan Joiner are standouts in the series, but each performance, thanks to the stars onscreen, Halpern at the wheel, and all those involved in front of and behind the camera, will make you feel as connected to the characters as they are to The Loop.
Executive produced by Matt Reeves (The Batman), Tales from the Loop is now streaming now on Amazon. The series stars Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town), Paul Schneider (Parks and Recreation), Daniel Zolghardi (Eighth Grade), Duncan Joiner (Waco), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes, Game of Thrones).